Keep up with the news by installing RT’s extension for . Never miss a story with this clean and simple app that delivers the latest headlines to you.

 

Upside-down drive: NASA tests under-ice space rover

Published time: June 24, 2014 14:18
Jupiter's moon Europa (image from www.wikinoticia.com)

Jupiter's moon Europa (image from www.wikinoticia.com)

A NASA space rover to be sent to Jupiter's moon Europa has had its first run in Alaska. The tiny machine is designed to travel on underwater ice.

The Buoyant rover for under-ice exploration (BRUIE) is a two-wheeled robot, designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab to study ice-covered waters of remote planets or their satellites. The main idea of the scientists was to use the underside of the ice as if it were ground.

BRUIE robot beneath the ice of Alaska's Sukok Lake (image from sploid.gizmodo.com)

NASA astrobiologist Kevin Hand told National Geographic: “It's the first time ever that an underwater, under-ice, untethered vehicle has been operated through satellite link.” He says, the technology works “as a wonderful marriage, advancing our understanding of what is happening on our own planet while simultaneously feeding forward into our exploration of potentially habitable worlds beyond Earth.”

And the world of Jupiter’s moon Europa is indeed a compelling destination for astrobiological research. A foot-thick ice cover of a frozen Arctic lake is a mere wafer compared to Europa’s 40km thick ice shell. Underwater tides keep the salty water ocean in a liquid state on this celestial body, which is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon.

Taking into consideration the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket NASA is developing, Hand says, "We could potentially get to Jupiter and Europa very quickly." Once the planet’s sixth moon, located near half billion miles away from the sun, is reached, the search for life will start amidst ocean exploration.

"We envision a launch sometime in the early to mid-2020s," Robert Pappalardo, the leader of the JPL team, says.

The NASA mission to Europa is a large-scale operation, as three types of underwater gliders will be used: Slocum, Seaglider, and Spray – each for a different depth. To secure the access to ocean, hidden by the ice, so-called ‘cryobots’, responsible for tunneling, will make boreholes by heating it.

The first tests of an under-ice rover were conducted in 2012 in lakes near Barrow, Alaska, but since then the researchers have not only updated the design, but added some new capabilities. Rejecting tether operation, they worked the rover into a vehicle which is operated by a remote command center. What’s more, its potential to escape from entrapment in soft ice pockets was upgraded, and a dissolved methane sensor was added.

Comments (2)

 

alain dejean 25.06.2014 09:23

Who took the picture of the robot ?

 

Gordon DeBaker 24.06.2014 17:07

NASA, whose main purpose was never science or space exploration for all of mankind, but a stupid act of hubris by Kennedy that spun out of control decades ago and should be shut down.

Add comment

Authorization required for adding comments

Register or

Name

Password

Show password

Register

or Register

Request a new password

Send

or Register

To complete a registration check
your Email:

OK

or Register

A password has been sent to your email address

Edit profile

X

Name

New password

Retype new password

Current password

Save

Cancel

Follow us

Follow us